Review: Advance Man
An astronaut who went to Mars returns with a cosmic secret.
Mon Jan 23 2012
Photograph: Deborah Alexander
Advance Man at Secret Theatre
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
In a dark corner of playwright Mac Rogers's mind, a secret plot is being hatched: to give audiences the heebie-jeebies with a trilogy of mind-benders about the end of the world as we know it. Advance Man, the first chapter, moves toward creepy, but is undone by a glut of competing story lines and goofily adolescent sci-fi conceits. Bill (a strangely placid Sean Williams) is a retired astronaut with conventional family problems—a rebellious teenage daughter, an emotionally estranged wife—and some less ordinary ones, involving droves of martians and world domination. I'll leave it at that, since the script goes to great lengths to obfuscate Bill's plans until the very end, when he tells all in a laughable whodunit-style reveal.
Advance Man recalls paranoid Cold War sci-fi (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, It Came From Outer Space), but with a decidedly modern twist: The present apocalypse results from a confluence of overpopulation, climate change and shrinking oil resources. Rogers's fuzzy end-of-days scenario rings almost as false as the fact that Bill and a motley crew of fellow space cowboys (portrayed unconvincingly by a shaky ensemble) are engineering a cosmic solution. As beleaguered wife Amelia, Kristen Vaughan provides some humanizing touches, almost rescuing the play from its alienating absurdities. Given the psychological nuance of the dialogue on the home front, Rogers might have been better off trading in the spaceship for a trusty old kitchen sink.